Please Note: This article is written for users of the following Microsoft Word versions: 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021. If you are using an earlier version (Word 2003 or earlier), this tip may not work for you. For a version of this tip written specifically for earlier versions of Word, click here: Protecting Parts of a Document.

Protecting Parts of a Document

Written by Allen Wyatt (last updated October 26, 2019)
This tip applies to Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021


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Word allows you to protect parts of a document so that they cannot be changed. This is done through Word's implementation of its forms feature. The idea behind forms is that you can specify the information to be entered in a form using special controls, and then you protect the form so that you can only enter data by using those controls; no other information in the protected portion of the form can be changed. If you didn't define any controls for the form, then all the information still remains protected, and you end up with a document that cannot be changed.

When you protect your document, you can also specify that only specific sections of the document be protected. Sections, in Word, are defined by the presence of section breaks. You insert a section break by displaying the Page Layout (Layout if you are using Word 2016 or a later version) tab of the ribbon and clicking the Breaks tool. Once your document is divided into sections, you can protect a section by following these steps:

  1. Display the Review tab of the ribbon.
  2. Click the Restrict Editing tool, in the Protect group. Word displays the Restrict Formatting and Editing (Word 2007 or Word 2010) or the Restrict Editing (Word 2013 or a later version) task pane at the right of your document.
  3. In section 2 of the task pane (Editing Restrictions), select the check box. This enables the drop-down list in the section.
  4. Using the drop-down list, choose Filling in Forms. Word makes the Select Sections link available, right under the drop-down list. (The link is only made available if your document contains multiple sections.)
  5. Click the Select Sections. Word displays the Section Protection dialog box.
  6. Make sure that only the section (or sections) you want protected are selected in the list of sections.
  7. Click on the OK button. Word closes the Section Protection dialog box.
  8. In the task pane, click the Yes, Start Enforcing Protection button. Word displays the Start Enforcing Protection dialog box.
  9. Enter a password for the protection, if desired. (You'll need to enter it twice.)
  10. Click OK.
  11. Close the Restrict Formatting and Editing task pane.

At this point you cannot change anything in the document sections you specified in step 6, unless there were forms controls in that section.

Notice that protection is done in Word on a section-by-section basis. (If there is only one section in the document, then the whole document is protected.) This means that you cannot protect other objects, such as text boxes or table cells. There is a way, however, that you can protect an entire row in a table. All you need to do is insert a continuous section break at the beginning of the row you want to protect, and then insert another continuous section break at the beginning of the row following the one you want to protect. You can then follow the above steps to protect the section you just created—the one containing a single table row.

WordTips is your source for cost-effective Microsoft Word training. (Microsoft Word is the most popular word processing software in the world.) This tip (7071) applies to Microsoft Word 2007, 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, Word in Microsoft 365, and 2021. You can find a version of this tip for the older menu interface of Word here: Protecting Parts of a Document.

Author Bio

Allen Wyatt

With more than 50 non-fiction books and numerous magazine articles to his credit, Allen Wyatt is an internationally recognized author. He is president of Sharon Parq Associates, a computer and publishing services company. ...

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What is 3 + 4?

2022-06-27 11:40:19

Fred

Hi, Paul,
Once inserting a Rich Text section, how do I restrict the editing of just that section? I tried both highlighting and just keeping the insertion point in that section -- both times it still locked the entire document.

Allen's suggestion doesn't help because the option to "Replace All" is grayed out if one section is locked -- even if the insertion point isn't in that locked section.

Thanks!


2020-03-10 13:24:34

Paul

I'm trying to protect a word document in which the first page is to protect allowing to fill out forms and the second and third pages are to be protected to allow for redline changes. Is this possible?


2019-11-05 17:08:37

Jo

I have a form that needs to be protected in some areas and unprotected in others (so users can delete rows, sections, etc.). So, I have inserted continuous section breaks around those areas and then I don't lock them. Users also need to be able to spell check all sections (e.g., sections that are unprotected as well as information they enter into the form fields).

I had to use the legacy form fields because I need to have a password on the form, so using content controls and then grouping them is not an option (since anyone can just ungroup them and change the form).

Do you know how I can accomplish this?


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